Abode Iota review: Perfect security for small homes

David Priest/CNET

Homes come in all shapes and sizes, and in 2021, home security systems do, too. If you’re worried mostly about porch pirates, you can just install a video doorbell. Conversely, if you want a fully secured house, complete with security cameras and motion sensors, a professionally installed and monitored system might be more your pace.

Somewhere in the middle is Abode Iota, a £330 system that comes with a central hub device, a door/window sensor, a motion sensor and a keyfob.

The hub comes with a built-in camera, Zigbee and Z-Wave receivers and a siren. After you install Iota, you can add dozens of sensors, cameras and other devices to the system by purchasing them a la carte on Abode’s website.

Smarten up

Get the best reviews, videos and comparisons in CNET’s Smart Home and Appliances newsletter. Iota’s all-in-one approach to home security makes the most sense for apartment or small-home dwellers — and its Apple HomeKit compatibility will likely excite Apple enthusiasts.

Its pricing, particularly if you hope to expand the system to cover more space, and a slightly lackluster app, tarnish an otherwise impressive system. In short, it won’t be right for everyone, but it’s still a great option to consider.

Like

  • Solid performance
  • Broad integrations

Don’t Like

  • Expensive devices
  • Clunky app

A smooth start

One of the best parts of using Abode Iota is its setup. I usually give myself a whole morning to set up multiple devices, such as the ones that come in Iota’s kit — and I’m a fairly seasoned installer of smart home tech.

Iota was a total breeze to install. It took a grand total of six minutes to get the whole system up and running, thanks to the fact that everything in the box is already paired. If you purchase more devices, you’ll have to connect each of them to the hub, but the starter kit is thankfully simple to get going.

Once the kit is installed (which essentially just requires plugging your camera into a wall outlet and the router), you can switch it over to Wi-Fi — which involved a hitch I’ll describe later — and place it wherever you want in the house.

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Abode Iota comes with a handful of devices, like this key fob, which can arm and disarm the security system.

David Priest/CNET

One for the money

Before I talk performance, I want to discuss the pricing of Abode — which is the first thing many potential buyers are going to look at. Abode Iota and SimpliSafe are two of the most popular DIY security systems on the market, along with Ring’s Alarm. Iota costs £330, and for the exact same price at SimpliSafe, you can get a starter kit with a motion sensor, a door/window sensor, a keypad, a bridge and an indoor camera.

Aside from the keypad, that’s almost exactly the same setup for the same price. Ring is a little cheaper than both of these systems: for £320, you can get a motion sensor, door/window sensor, keypad, video doorbell, bridge, range extender and indoor camera. It takes a couple hundred bucks to get any of these DIY home security systems started, but they all land at around the same initial price, with Ring undercutting SimpliSafe and Abode by £10 and one video doorbell (worth £60).

So Abode is doing all right here. If you like the system, then 60 or 70 bucks may not make a huge difference. But the starter kit isn’t the only price to factor in.

The appeal of DIY home security is that you can expand it to fit your precise needs. Many of us have more than one door and window, after all.

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Abode’s Iota lands almost exactly at the same price point as SimpliSafe’s comparable kit.

Chris Monroe/CNET

This is where Abode Iota gets a little pricier. Almost every one of its standalone devices is more expensive than its corollary at other companies.

Abode’s basic motion sensor, for instance, costs £55, compared to SimpliSafe’s and Ring’s £30 sensors. If you look down the list of products, almost all of them have similar price differences. That means £200 extra dollars to expand your home security system is going to go a lot farther at SimpliSafe and Ring than at Abode — and that’s a real bummer for customers with larger spaces to cover.

One notable exception to this pattern is Abode’s Cam 2, an indoor/outdoor security camera that’s open for preorder and will be priced at £35. Though we haven’t gotten a chance to review the camera yet, it’s nice to see the company moving toward some more affordable hardware, especially in matching Wyze’s price for their latest camera. Abode’s professional monitoring plan is also expensive.

While SimpliSafe charges about £183 a year for professional monitoring, and Ring charges £100/year, Abode charges a whopping £241 a year.  On the other hand, Abode only charges £73 a year for a self-monitoring plan (which includes video storage, person alerts and more), while SimpliSafe costs £120 a year for a comparable plan. Ring, meanwhile, costs £30 a year.

The one problem with self-monitoring — and this is true for all three of the systems I’ve mentioned — is that it doesn’t support cellular backup. If your power goes out, so does your system’s ability to communicate with your phone. It all boils down to this: if you’re planning to self-monitor a smaller apartment or home, Abode could be a solid deal for you.

But it you’re planning to cover a larger space with Iota and its compatible devices — or if you want professional monitoring — Abode’s competitors might be more economical options.

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Abode’s door/window sensors are standard and perform well.

David Priest/CNET

Two for the show

Price isn’t everything, and when it comes to securing your home, it might not even be the primary thing. So how does Abode Iota actually perform? As mentioned, setup is a breeze and the Abode app is fairly accessible.

In it you can access live streams of your cameras, check your devices, arm your system and create smart home automations (including using geofencing). I had a few minor issues with the app, most of which I could figure out without much trouble. One annoying discovery, for instance, was that the button to switch my Iota to Wi-Fi (from being hardwired to my router) simply didn’t appear on Chrome when I was using the online Abode platform.

After Googling it, I discovered the button was still there, and I could click on it — it just wasn’t visible (meaning I had to know which blank section of the screen to click for a setup action almost everyone will perform). Such issues were few, but they were enough to make the app experience feel less than ideal.

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Abode is one of the few DIY home security platforms that works well with Apple HomeKit and Siri.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Despite these annoyances, Abode’s integrations are genuinely impressive. Iota works well with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri.

Again, the integration setups are a little clunky: Apple, for instance, lets you scan a QR code, but you have to generate the code on the Abode app rather than it being on the device itself. Instead of a quick scan, you have to copy down an eight-digit number and re-enter it on the Home app. That hitch aside, you still get a HomeKit-enabled DIY security system — something you won’t get from SimpliSafe without a third-party bridge, and you won’t get from Ring at all.

Final thoughts

Abode Iota is a solid DIY home security system, and if you’re looking to secure a small house or apartment, it could be perfect for you.

The other big appeal is its Apple HomeKit integration, which sets it apart from much of the direct competition. That said, Iota still isn’t perfect. Expanding the system is more expensive than it is with SimpliSafe or Ring Alarm, and the professional monitoring subscription is the most expensive of the lot.

Its app can also be a tad clunky. In addition, Abode still doesn’t require multifactor authentication for signing into its apps, which should be more of an industry norm by this point. Whether the pros outweigh the cons will largely depend on your exact needs — but I can say Abode is worth considering.

I just won’t recommend it for everyone.

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